|After a disappointing May, outfielder Alex Hassan has been swinging a hot bat for Pawtucket this month. (File/Jim Davis/Globe staff/2011)|
Hassan adjusting quite nicely
Promotion hasn’t hurt production
It was only natural to expect Alex Hassan to go through an adjustment period when the 24-year-old outfield prospect from Milton started the season at Triple A Pawtucket.
After hitting .291 with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs last year at Double A Portland - as well as an .860 OPS (on-base plus slugging) that was among the best in the farm system - Hassan knew it would take some time to catch up at the next level.
“I just think my approach is ever-evolving,’’ said Hassan, who rebounded from a difficult May, in which he hit .230, by hitting .314 (11 for 35) this month.
“I think it’s something that is never finished. You’re always learning and always picking up new things, facing different pitchers, so that’s something you’re always working on.’’
Evidently, the four-year letter-winner at Boston College High School has been a quick study.
“He knows the zone so well and gives you a quality at-bat,’’ said Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler of Hassan, who was selected in the 20th round of the 2009 draft out of Duke and rated by Baseball America at the start of the season as having the best strike zone judgment in the organization.
“Even when he was struggling from a numbers standpoint, he was still walking and getting deep into counts and was grinding out at-bats. He just wasn’t getting any hits.
“It took him 5-6 games to get a hit, square balls up, and he was getting on base, and balls were starting to fall for him a little bit. He gives you a good at-bat every time up.’’
Hassan, a righthanded batter, had his first four-hit game of the season in an 11-8 loss to the Gwinnett Braves Monday night at McCoy Stadium.
His numbers when ahead in the count are impressive: .323, 29 walks, a .536 on-base percentage, and .631 slugging, through Wednesday.
So what has been his approach during this stretch?
“Just to wait for a good pitch to hit and to trust my eyes,’’ Hassan said. “I’ve really tried to stick to that. My eyes will let me know what’s a good pitch to hit and what’s not. That’s what I’ve really stuck to in the minor leagues.’’
But, as Beyeler pointed out, “He’s also a guy who can hit the ball out of the yard every once in a while when he gets ahead in the count and gets his pitch to hit.
“He’s a big, strong kid. I think he’s going to be a guy, down the road, you’re really going to see what you got in him because he’s going to get more comfortable, he’s going to get better pulling the ball, and he’s going to learn pitches and the situations.
“I think the power is going to start playing a little bit more the older he gets.’’
Hassan has five home runs this season, and the more familiar he becomes with Triple A pitching, the more effective he will be.
“There’s no secret that the pitchers at this level are more advanced and their off-speed pitches are more advanced,’’ Hassan said. “So there’s certainly a learning curve facing those advanced pitchers who can really command the ball and throw three or four pitches for strikes. So there really was that adjustment.
“I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable here and I think my at-bats are getting better and so I’m just going to stick to my approach.’’
Right off the bat
At every step of his progression through rehab, Ryan Kalish seems to produce immediate results. When he was transferred from Portland to Pawtucket - after starting the season on the disabled list recovering from shoulder and neck surgery - Kalish responded in his Triple A debut June 5 by reaching base all five times he came to the plate. He went 2 for 2 with a homer (in his first plate appearance, no less) and three walks. Then, when he was activated by Boston from the 60-day DL last Friday, he went 4 for 5 with a homer.
“It’s encouraging stuff whenever things like that are happening right off the bat,’’ Kalish said. “The thing you have to do is keep it in perspective because the game isn’t easy. I still understand this game is really hard and it’s not always going to start off like that or finish like that and just keep my mind in an even place where it can allow for both the ups and the downs to be OK. That’s what I’m concentrating on right now.’’
Do it again
Mauro Gomez homered twice in Tuesday night’s 4-1 win over the Gwinnett Braves that enabled the PawSox to salvage a 2-2 series split. It was the second time the slugging first baseman had accomplished the feat this season. What gave Gomez particular pride this time was that they came against the team he played for last season. “Of course, of course,’’ said Gomez. “I knew it was my old team and I knew their pitchers were going to try and throw me a lot of breaking balls. So I just tried to wait for my pitch, a good pitch to hit, and I did that.’’ They were his 14th and 15th homers of the season. “He can drive the ball out of the ballpark, line to line,’’ said Beyeler. “Any time he can do that, he’s a tough out.’’ . . . Short A Lowell will hold its official Opening Day ceremonies Monday against the Connecticut Tigers at LeLacheur Park, but the Spinners will give their fans a glimpse of their roster when they host a free exhibition game Friday evening at 5 against the Nashua Silver Knights of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. While much of Lowell’s roster will be 2012 draft picks, it will also have outfielders William Jerez (second round, 2011) and Kendrick Perkins (sixth round, 2010) and shortstop Mookie Betts (fifth round, 2011).
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.